SHEFFIELD Council has agreed an out-of-court settlement with 900 school dinner ladies, carers and cleaners - a month before the case was due to go to the Supreme Court.
The payment has been made to women who argued their roles were the equivalent of men’s in other jobs on the council, but paid less.
Julie Toner, director of human resources at Sheffield Council, revealed the settlement had been achieved, although she did not say how much compensation the council pay
If the council had gone to court, and lost, they would have faced paying out £20m.
She said: “We have been in discussions with the trade unions representing workers in Sheffield since May this year and have undertaken an exhaustive process to reach an amicable settlement for all involved.
“The terms of the settlement are confidential so we will not be making any further comment, suffice to say we are content this has now been settled. The council resolved equal pay status across the authority for its workforce last April.”
Council care worker Diane Wragg told The Star: “This is great news, a lot of people will be really happy.
“I was one of the first test cases to go to tribunal, back in 2005, so this is something that has been a very long time coming.”
Diane, from Birdwell, Barnsley, a Sheffield care worker for 24 years, added: “We stuck with this case because there were a lot of inequalities. Men were being paid more and were getting bonuses. We weren’t getting what we were entitled to.”
Sheffield Council said the cases mainly involved historic claims that have occurred nationally across the majority of authorities.
A spokeswoman said: “The cases were evaluated under the 1987 national job evaluation process. Under that process roles were valued equally but in some cases manual predominantly male roles received higher pay because they received a productivity bonus.
“Since May, we have been in discussion with the trade unions to try to reach agreement on a settlement of the claims without further litigation and we have now reached a positive conclusion to those talks.
“We think this approach more effective than further litigation both in terms of time and cost. There will be no new impact on council finances and therefore no impact on council tax payers.”
Sheffield Employment Tribunal originally considered the council’s defence in 2007. This was followed by appeals from both sides and the cases progressed through the courts.
Some 600 of the 900 claimants affected, who are all carers, were due to take their cases to the Supreme Court.
The council has also settled claims from 130 further carers who were due to take the council to a new Employment Tribunal in November, plus 130 school staff and 40 caterers.
Most of those involved are members of the GMB trade union. Its regional organiser, Peter Davies, said: “We have been trying to resolve this case for years. Common sense has prevailed.”